Another year is ending and the Motor1.com editors have assembled once again to set aside our objectivity and rave about our favorite vehicles and rant against those that we suffered through. Okay, so maybe I’m being a touch melodramatic. This year’s list from covers the gamut of crossovers (so many crossovers), hypercars, concepts, and all things in between.
As in years past, each entry is in the listed author’s own words, and as such follows a varying definition of what “best” and “worst” mean. For example, none of the “worst” vehicles we drove this year were really classically “bad.” Some of us complained that a very nice crossover was boring, or that a sporty crossover was too sporty, or that an affordable crossover was too cheap… I’m sensing a trend.
Scroll on for the Motor1.com team’s takes, and when you’re done, hop into Comments and tell us why we’re right, wrong, or something else. You can also click over and read versions of this feature from 2021 and 2020. Most of us are off to recover ahead of 2023 – big things are coming, friends – but we wish everyone reading this a safe, happy, and healthy 2023.
Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief
Gallery: 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring: First Drive
Best Car: Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance
Man, I got to drive some excellent stuff in 2022. There was a back-to-basics Porsche Cayman T with almost perfect man-machine synergy, the staggering performance of the supercar-like Ford Shelby GT500, and the unexpected brilliance of the Genesis GV70.
But the car that I talked about the most to family, friends and strangers – the car that stuck with me the longest after the driving was done – was the Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance.
Read on and you’ll see that my least-favorite car of 2022 was also a six-figure electric vehicle. So I’m either bipolar (don’t rule it out) or the Lucid team has done something very special with its Air model, right out of the gate.
The philosophy behind the car centers on efficiency: Smaller, more powerful motors; a super energy-dense battery pack; making every square inch of the vehicle useable for a human or cargo; and even manufacturing its in-house–designed technology in a sustainable, cost-effective way that will bear dividends for the next era of Lucid vehicles.
But the Air GTP isn’t only impressive as a thought exercise. On the road the unmissable sleek sedan goes like a cruise missile tethered to the Earth. Accelleration is staggering. Braking is powerful and predictable. Handling is – despite this being a very heavy thing – a great balance between forgiving ride and a rigid body.
Lucid has gotten so much positive press and released a surprising number of variants that it’s easy to forget the Air is essentially the freshman effort of an entirely new automaker. If this is the trajectory, the future is incredibly bright.
Gallery: 2022 GMC Hummer EV: 2022 Motor1.com Star Awards
Worst Car: GMC Hummer EV
The Hummer EV should be a home run. It has a massive battery, insane power, great range (that is achievable in the real world), crazy off-road chops, a lavishly detailed interior, and Easter eggs straight from NASA. For a car-loving, tech-nerding guy from the Midwest this really ought to be red meat.
Unfortunately, it never quite comes together for me on the road. The aggressive wheel and tire package and disdain for aerodynamics make it perhaps the loudest of the current crop of electric vehicles. And as much as the user-interface design is impressive to look at, it’s pretty hard to use.
I suppose that if I drove the Hummer off-road in an environment that helped its maneuverability and drive mode differentiation stand out, I might be more impressed. But sadly, driving it through neighborhoods and freeways, it still feels oversized and a bit cumbersome (despite its impressive turning circle).
Add in the wild lack of efficiency due to its massive size and weight and the huge price tag, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the only new EVs that’s hard for me to recommend.
Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept: First Drive
Best Car: Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX
This is my piece so I’m choosing to interpret “best” as “most important,” and there isn’t a vehicle I’ve driven this year that holds a candle to the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX concept in terms of sheer importance. It is the idealized future of electrification.
It’s incredibly light, thanks to a compact, energy-dense, sub-100-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that uses passive air-cooling. The super-sleek body cuts through the air and, along with the super low weight, allows effortless coasting. And that coasting, not to mention avoiding the friction brakes, is key to maximizing range.
Driving the EQXX at Mercedes’ Immendingen, Germany, test facility was a revelation because of the lengths drivers need to go to in maximizing range. Never, ever touch the friction brakes. Instead, motor regen, controlled via the wheel-mounted paddles, is key. And that’s changed the way I test EVs. Rather than just setting and forgetting the one-pedal mode, I’m now constantly adjusting regen and trying to see how long I can coast along gentle grades.
Both tactics reveal more about the car – more about the aerodynamics and weight, the accessibility of regen, and just how efficient the vehicle really is. The EQXX was a revelation, and one I can’t wait to see trickle down to road-going EVs.
Gallery: 2023 Honda CR-V: 2022 Motor1.com Star Awards
Worst Car: Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is an excellent compact crossover that will suit nearly any customer on the market. But my goodness, this redesign has made an already dull car duller still. The exterior design is uninteresting, the interior looks great but is also derivative, and the powertrain is thoroughly familiar and ho-hum.
That might be okay if the segment the CR-V were competing in weren’t wildly oversaturated. But there’s so many options and so much variety in driving character, equipment, and style that this Honda feels like a modest effort. The CR-V’s absolute vanillaness was a big reason I pushed for the Kia Sportage Hybrid to win Motor1.com’s Best SUV Star Award this year. The two cars are equal in terms of passenger hauling and versatility, but everywhere the Honda feels average, the Kia just drips with charm.
Don’t feel bad if you bought a CR-V. It really is a fine car. But if you’re shopping for one, be sure to take a good look around. There’s probably a more exciting competitor at the dealership next door.
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Gallery: 2023 Rimac Nevera First Drive Review
Best Car: Rimac Nevera
The definition of the word “speed” has forever been altered in my brain thanks to the Rimac Nevera. This 1,914-horsepower EV will rocket to 60 miles per hour in under two seconds and on to a world-record top speed of 256 miles per hour. Even though I only spent about 30 minutes in the thing, I was immediately blown away by its performance.
But more than that, the Nevera isn't so intimidating or unattainable that you wouldn't be able to drive it every day. It's decently comfortable, it has a big touchscreen, and when you're not uncorking all 1,914 horses, the Nevera drives like any other run-of-the-mill sports car. It really is an unbelievable machine.
Gallery: 2022 BMW X4 M Competition: Pros And Cons
Worst Car: BMW X4 M
Using the term “worst” here is probably a bit too rude to BMW – the X4 M is still a 473-horsepower SUV, after all. But for me, BMW's latest batch of M cars are hit-and-miss. I'm a big fan of the M240i (and I'll probably love the M2, too), but I'm lukewarm on the larger M3 and M4 cars. The same goes for BMW's sporty SUVs; the X3 M and X5 M are both ridiculously quick and wonderfully silly, but the X4 M doesn't have the same personality.
Maybe it's the way it looks; the X4 M's smiley-face redesign is weird and the back-end coupe styling isn't as cohesive as on the larger X6. It's kind of frumpy, actually. And for as fast as it is – and like most M cars, it is very fast – there isn't much charm to be found in the steering or suspension. It's mostly just a powerful engine on wheels.
Brett Evans, Senior Editor
Gallery: 2023 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing: 2022 Motor1.com Star Awards
Best Car: Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
As a supercharged, 668-horsepower, manual-transmission, rear-wheel-drive sedan, the intimidation factor is real with the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. But if you respect that it could kill you with three tires tied behind its back – and leave the stellar Performance Traction Management in Sport mode – the Blackwing becomes the most involving and entertaining car I’ve driven in a long, long time.
And it must be said that in spite of its menacing exhaust note and ground-hugging stance, the Caddy is actually pretty easy to drive quickly. There’s plenty of grip from its Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, and the aforementioned traction control steps in and out of the picture imperceptibly, keeping you pointing where you want to go. Chassis balance and steering feel are exemplary, so it’s a cinch to correct the car’s attitude when pushing it. And if you’re a manual-transmission novice (or just lazy), the rev-match system makes you feel like a hero when it’s time to slow for a corner and downshift into the correct gear.
Beyond the overall driving competence, the CT5-V Blackwing is just hilarious good fun. The percussion coming from the tailpipes is a perfect match for the electric-guitar supercharger whine under the hood. The carbon-fiber bucket seats make every commute feel like a sprint around a race track. And the excitement of rowing a six-speed stick – however notchy and heavy it might be – through the V8’s thick torque curve can’t be overstated.
It’s a thrill, plain and simple.
Gallery: 2022 Jeep Compass High Altitude Review
Worst Car: Jeep Compass
There’s nothing inherently bad about the Jeep Compass. It’s comfortable and has enough power for around-town errands. The 2022 model’s revised interior is a massive upgrade over its immediate predecessor, especially in the High Altitude trim I drove. The mini–Grand Cherokee design is decently stylish. And there’s a spacious rear seat and massive cargo area (relative to its competitors) that make it easy to live with on a daily basis.
But in a segment that also contains the expressive, alienesque Hyundai Kona N-Line and the Teutonically composed Volkswagen Taos, the Compass is a bland, roadgoing bowl of unfrosted shredded wheat. The engine feels a bit toothless when climbing a hill, the steering and suspension are insulated and numb, and the transmission can occasionally be tricked into making the wrong gear choice.
That would all be well and good if the Compass were a good value like the Toyota Corolla Cross, but its EPA-rated 25 miles per gallon combined trails most of its competitors, and the High Altitude model I drove cost a staggering $40,175. That number could easily get you into a Star Award–winning Kia Sportage SX Hybrid or a plug-in version of the Hyundai Tucson, both of which are more entertaining to drive, bigger inside, and much thriftier.
I pressed the Jeep Compass into use as a family hauler for a week, and I had no significant complaints. It usually does the job it’s asked to do without protest, which speaks to how good almost every car is nowadays. But in a field rife with options that are as good or better, paying 40 large for Jeep’s tweener compact crossover feels like a poor decision.